Court indefinitely adjourns Workers’ Party trial
The Supreme Administrative Court (Nejvyšší správní soud - NSS) has adjourned the hearings on the future of the extreme-right Workers’ Party (Dělnická strana - DS) for an indefinite length of time. Judge Vojtěch Šimíček said the court would probably issue its verdict on the government’s motion to dissolve the party at some point in February. The court reviewed evidence for and against the party over the course of four days last week. The next step will be the announcement of a verdict.
In his closing arguments, Tomáš Sokol, the attorney for the Czech Government, said the evidence introduced confirmed the reasonableness of the proposal to dissolve the party. Sokol argued that the DS is racist, violent, and xenophobic, provoking unrest and collaborating with the National Resistance and other ultra-right wing organizations in the Czech Republic and abroad.
Sokol referred to photographs in which DS members are shown giving the Nazi salute or are standing together with known neo-Nazis. "I have seen no other party whose members would so frequently forget themselves as to give the Nazi salute,” Sokol said. "By labeling the DS a neo-fascist subject, I have probably even pleased those of its members who feel they are indeed neo-fascists.”
DS chair Tomáš Vandas labeled the trial “political” in his closing argument. In his view, the government filed the motion for the DS to be dissolved due to the party’s growing popularity. Vandas claimed that none of the evidence submitted had proven the DS was engaged in illegal activity. He also indicated the possibility that the party events which had culminated in violence had been intentionally disrupted by “agents” who wanted to discredit the party. He did not say what sort of “agents” he believed they were.
Vandas also said the party will run candidates in the next parliamentary elections even if the court dissolves it. "That would be an excellent start to the election campaign for us,” he said. The party, for example, could run candidates under a new name, such as the affiliated Workers’ Social Justice Party (Dělnická strana sociální spravedlnosti).
The most important testimony was heard on Thursday from Michal Mazek, an expert on right-wing extremism. Mazel said he was in no doubt that the DS was closely connected to neo-Nazis and inspired by German National Socialism and the ideas of Adolf Hitler. He based his analysis on DS publications, speeches and symbols used by party leaders and other speakers at events convened by the party.
Vandas denies the party is inspired by Nazism and calls the charges an “audacious lie”. He also distanced himself from all the events that ended in violence, including the street battles at the Janov housing estate in Litvínov, claiming the party was not one of “hooligans”.
Vandas also denied any connection to National Resistance, which in his view does not exist. Experts on extremism consider National Resistance to be an active, decentralized, unofficial organization of Czech neo-Nazis. “I would love to see someone explain what National Resistance is. I don’t know whether this is a trial of the DS or of National Resistance,” Vandas repeatedly said.
Police detectives from North Bohemia, North Moravia and Prague who specialize in extremism also testified. All of them said, on the basis of their experience, that some DS candidates, officials and promoters have longstanding ties to the neo-Nazi community, the skinhead subculture, and various ultra-right associations. Some of them have repeatedly faced criminal prosecution in the past. The testimony was also heard that those suspected of the arson attack in Vítkov also attended DS events.
Three witnesses who are either members or promoters of the DS were subpoenaed and refused to testify. One of them, the representative of the Prague branch of the party, Patrik Vondrák, had to be escorted to the court on Wednesday from prison, where he has been in custody since the October 2009 police raid on right-wing extremists. Another police raid on the extreme right was conducted last Wednesday, during which police arrested at least three people.
While Vandas made a self-confident impression on the first day of the trial, he became less agile as time went on, repeating himself frequently. The court sometimes did not allow the questions he wanted to ask the witnesses, as they were formulated inappropriately. Vandas decided to defend the party on his own even though he is not a lawyer by training. He was silently assisted by another DS leader, Martin Zbela, for two days of the trial. On the last day he was assisted by DS Vice-Chair Jiří Štěpánek. A small group of DS promoters sat in the courtroom every day, wearing DS badges and scarves.
The first motion to dissolve the DS last year was rejected by a special panel of judges for lack of evidence and overall formal incompleteness. This time the government submitted a 70-page long motion accompanied by 85 appendices in the form of police reports, articles from the internet, DS publications and police snapshots from the street fighting at the Janov housing estate. The government submitted other documents into evidence directly during the trial.
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